The Neüsuss Photograms: Framing and Exhibition

Submitted by Kate Meyers Emery,

Once treatment of the photograms was complete, the next step was to mount and frame them in a manner that would support these large prints and protect them into the future. There were numerous issues with the old frames that originally held the prints: the acrylic was too small for the frames, the prints weren’t properly supported, and in general the materials used were non-archival. Further, we wanted ones that would look good aesthetically and would be appropriate for display.

Conservator Zach Long mounted the prints to archival boards using 24 three inch wide hinges on each print. Seven hinges were placed along the sides, and five at the top and bottom. These hinges were made of heavy-weight Japanese kozo paper, and were adhered to the print and the mount using wheat starch paste. The hinges will support the weight of the prints and hold them tight against their mounts without the need for matting.

Once the Neusüss photograms were mounted, hardwood maple frames were ordered. The frames have finished corners and splines, which adds strength. Cuarator Lisa Hostetler and chief object preparator Emily Phoenix selected this frame in particular because it had a simple profile and a finish similar to those used for other works in the upcoming exhibition, A Matter of Memory: Photography as Object in the Digital Age. Wood spacers backed with a barrier film were placed between the frames and photograms—these create air gaps between the prints and the acrylic glazings.

One of the more important aspects of the framing process is removing and protecting the prints from dust, as it can become a distraction to the viewer. Once the glazing was dust-free, we moved as quickly as possible to get each print into its frame. The prints were then sealed in their frame to prevent dust from sneaking in. The sealing tape has the added benefit of slowing changes in humidity, buffering spikes that could cause distortions amongst other problems. Finally, the protective paper layer on the glazing was removed to reveal the final presentation.

Both Neusüss photograms were framed in this manner, which will provide them with much better protection into the future. The frames are stronger, use materials and a design that won’t harm the prints, and utilize a mounting method that provides adequate support.

While much of this was for the good of the works themselves—treating existing tears and removing potentially damaging tape, and providing safe frames to protect them—it was also because we wanted to display these in our upcoming exhibition, A Matter of Memory: Photography as Object in the Digital Age.

Lisa Hostetler, curator of the exhibition, was the first to re-discover these objects in the vault as she worked on the exhibition. A Matter of Memory features works that either directly or obliquely speak to how the transition from analog to digital photography is changing our relationship to historical and personal memory. She proposes that the concept of the photograph as an object, not just an image, is something that is coming to the forefront now that digital photography is a ubiquitous part of our lives.

Floris Neüsuss was among those photographers who emphasized the photograph as an object prior to the advent of the digital era. His work was an important precursor to that of the contemporary artists whose work is featured in the exhibition. Neüsuss’s Nudograms were effectively impressions of performances in front of photographic materials, rather than records of the play of light on objects in a darkroom, as in traditional photograms. His technique was innovative both formally and conceptually, and his legacy is evident in the work of young photographers working after the dawn of the digital age. Among them is Farrah Karapetian, whose monumental Riot Police will be featured in A Matter of Memory.

Want to see the Neüsuss photograms firsthand and see how they fit into the broader exhibition? See them on display now!

*These posts were first published as part of the Photography Department's Photo Finish 5K Campign, and were co-written by Jamie Allen, Lisa Hostetler, Zach Long, Emily Phoenix, and Kate Meyers Emery. Photographs include Emily Phoenix and Zach Long removing dust from the photogram (left), and the photogram in the exhibition (right), taken by Taina Meller and Kate Meyers Emery.

Monday, November 14, 2016